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The Safety Guru with Tricia Kagerer



In conversation with Tricia Kagerer, the author of The B Words, discussing women in non-traditional roles in the workplace, including safety and risk management. Topics covered include workplace diversity, corporate social responsibility and servant leadership. Tricia advocates for the importance of financial literacy and bridging the missing link regarding the impact of safety and wellbeing initiatives on the bottom line. Listen to discover how to gain freedom from society’s prohibition and from your inhibition, to drive positivity and achieve success! 


Real leaders leave a legacy. They capture the hearts and minds of their teams. Their origin story puts the safety and well-being of their people first. Great companies ubiquitously have safe yet productive operations. For those companies, safety is an investment, not a cost for the C-Suite. It’s a real topic of daily focus. This is The Safety Guru with your host, Eric Michrowski, a globally recognized Ops and The Safety Guru public speaker and author. Are you ready to leave a safety legacy? Your legacy success story begins now.

Hi and welcome to The Safety Guru. My name is Eric Michrowski, your host. And today I’m very excited to have with me Trisha Kagerer. She’s the EVP of Risk Management for Jordan Foster Construction and also the author of the B-words, a recently published book. So, Tricia, welcome to the show.

Thank you so much for having me this morning.

Absolutely. So, tell me a little bit about your story and what triggered you to write the book and also the work that you did in safety that got you to where you are today.

Sure, absolutely. So, I have been what I call the only for a long time, I’ve been in safety and risk management and most recently in the construction industry for more than 20 years. And I found myself in a pretty lonely place as an executive of a construction company working both in safety and construction. There really weren’t a lot of women throughout the course of my career in the 20 years in whether it be construction, whether it be the safety industry.

And so, as I said, the more I am as I got better and got more career oriented and started climbing the proverbial corporate ladder, I realized that there really wasn’t anybody that I could ask for advice or go back and try to network with. And so, I realized that it was maybe I had something to say about that. And I’ve always had a passion for writing. So, I decided to come up with the idea of writing the book called The B Words.

It’s 13 B-words women must navigate for success. The goal is to really just my goal at this point in my career is to open as many doors as I possibly can for women in nontraditional roles in the workplace. I’d like to actually do away with the term nontraditional roles. I would like it to be where people from an inclusion perspective can pursue the career that they believe is most valuable to them. And so, this is my contribution to that mission.

That’s phenomenal. So, when we were talking originally, you talked about some of the words within it. Some of the is one of the themes that really resonated with me was around this theme around bridges and really the link when it comes to women in the workplace, but also even in terms of safety professionals in the workplace, is the world is changing around us and we’ve got to adapt how we connect with audience. Tell me a little bit more about the Bridges chapter and some of your thoughts there, particularly as it relates to how people in safety can have bigger impacts on outcomes.

OK, so absolutely. So, the reality is I started writing this book right after the me-too movement, so but I had a clear intention in mind. I didn’t want it to be a male bashing book. I think there’s a lot of stories. Every chapter is presented with a word and some statistics related to that word and then women’s or just stories that promote it. And then each chapter has a breakthrough, which is solutions. I don’t like to present problems without solutions.

So, with the Bridges chapter, I realized that if we discount 50 percent of the population because everyone’s just angry and that we’re never going to facilitate any change at all. And so, I realized that I wanted this book to speak to both men and women and how we can work together to create opportunities that, yes, there are definitely some challenges that we have a lot of work to do. So, one of the things that the Bridges chapter touches on is the reality is the world is changing.

So, as and executives are running companies and with the intent of making a profit so very similar to safety. Safety is a way to when we do safety right. And we have safety and productivity and quality all working in conjunction. We don’t have money going out the back door that that we don’t recognize. It’s the same thing with diversity. There has to be our customer base is changing. Our workforce is changing. And quite frankly, if the only people making decisions all look the same and are all out of touch with our culture of our organizations, they’re not going to be profitable.

And so that’s kind of where it comes from.

But I think it’s a really important topic is really the diversity that you bring has to be connected and is so critical to the changing workplace. You’ve got different generations of people of different backgrounds. You need to find a way to connect in in all spaces, but definitely in the safety space.

Absolutely. So, if people in the chairs at the table, at the proverbial table are all, well, quite frankly, male white men in their right over 50. But our workforce is diverse and our industries and our customers and our external partners are changing. There’s a disconnect. So, we want to open that table and pull up a chair to the next generation. And it will look different than what we’ve had in the past. And that’s really what I speak to.

And the breakthrough talk about how do you do that partnership? Just recognizing and there’s a bit of an issue with sometimes I think there’s an issue with the status quo. So, for the if I open a chair at the table for someone who doesn’t look like me, then that’s a space that can’t be taken, that’s taken by someone else. But I just really believe that there’s an abundance of opportunity for everyone. We just have to shift our mindset and then recognize some of those bias, which is another B word.

Right, that are holding us back from making those changes. One of one of the challenges, too, is a lot of companies say, OK, I have a diversity program. And the reality is, if the culture isn’t ready for it, just like safety, you’re going to fail. So, you try to realize that. Are you really in tune with those that you’re intending to serve and as your culture ready for it?

And how do you how do you drive that forward so you can bring that diversity as well to the table, which is really important.

Absolutely, it’s critical to the future of organizations and with everything that’s going on in the world now, I really think that organizations that don’t get it and don’t buy into potentially change at some point that it’s a risk. I’m in risk management, too. So, it’s a risk that they won’t survive. I don’t believe that people are getting more savvy about who they’re working for, the products that they’re buying, and they’re looking to organizations to step up and care about things like inclusion and diversity and how we treat people in the workplace, which it’s time.

And I think the other element is, is if you want to attract the best talent and there certainly be choosier, what am I seeing at the table and who’s showing up? That best talent is probably going to be also the safest talent at the table. And if I start being choosy, I remember there was one project that I went to visit on the Gulf Coast and it was an incredibly progressive project. It was a phenomenal site. People wanted to be there.

The leadership was incredibly in line around safety, but just the culture was phenomenal. And what was interesting is nobody wanted to leave. They had access to the best talent that almost no attritional no issues around absenteeism compared to all the other projects around them. But a lot of it was because people chose to be there. So, lo and behold, it was also the safest site you could possibly get to.

So absolutely, that’s huge. It’s really huge to create a place where people want to stay. It’s exactly it’s all about the money, but it’s not it’s really about being a part of something bigger than ourselves and feeling like we’re appreciated and that we are. And safety is the best way to do that. Right. So, when we when we’re when we’re empowering people to be safe, as this is the way we are going to approach our business, there’s nothing more rewarding.

Right. But to get it right, you have to you have to consider all of it. It’s a bigger picture so than just compliance.

I agree, so the topics. Is this concept of servant leadership and building more relationships, connecting with the audience, which is very much linked to what we’re talking about, bridges, can you can you share some of your thoughts, your wisdom around kind of the theme of server leadership? How do you make it happen and the importance of it?

Absolutely, so I stumbled upon the term servant leadership maybe 10 – 15 years ago and realized that I didn’t know that there was such a, you know, a concept of it, like it was established. It was just something that I think my parents raised me to service in that way. And so, it came naturally to me that it didn’t I didn’t know it had like a title or something like that. So, I started reading quite a bit about it.

And but it’s just treating people the way you’d want to be treated yourself, whether that comes to safety. So, I think the days of safety professionals running out and writing people up and being, you know, with the hammer, there’s a place for discipline, but it’s not the place to create lasting change on projects. So, I do believe that there has to be an education approach and in service to others approach and kind of what we’re doing. And toward Fosters, we’ve created a field safety leader program.

And so not only we’ve identified leaders without a title. So, there are people that are in the field after the daily huddle who are who are the guys going to say, OK, now, what did they just say and what is it that we’re getting then? And we’ve identified those leaders and we’re training them not only to help the eyes and ears related to all of the necessary things we need to do on the safety side of things. But more most importantly, in my mind, is how to communicate, how to conflict resolution skills, leadership skills, knowing yourself to lead yourself.

How do you become a leader that people would want to follow? And what is it like being on the other side of you? And so, I think we’re one of we’re really having a phenomenal success with this program because instead of it being, oh, we’ve given someone a vast and power and now all of a sudden, my coworker is out to report me that that’s how a lot of these initiatives end up with the with the servant leader approach, where you’re giving people tools to be better communicators in service to others.

It really resonates with everyone.

I love it, this is this is really phenomenal, and can you share maybe a little bit more about how you’ve been able to increase the impact of safety by connected connecting to the language of business? You alluded a little bit around it when you were talking about bridges. I think this is something that’s really important is how do you connect with your audience? Had you spoken to the C-Suite around the importance, the criticality of driving safety forward, what are some of your tips or pearls of wisdom around that topic?

So basically, having worked my way up to the C-Suite, I realized early on that I was more kind of going back to that sort of leadership concept. I wanted to do things for the greater good of the people. But if I didn’t speak the language of money and finance, oftentimes I would find myself not resonating with the decision makers. So and so I and I see this as something when I’m out meeting with safety professionals. I think you have to learn the language of money as well.

You have to speak the board. You have to speak to how your initiatives are going to impact the bottom line. So, for example, years ago I wanted to do a wellness program and I was so excited about it because I thought, oh, this is going to be so great. We’re going to be in the field. We’re going to bring resources to people that have never received those resources before. And it’s going to be wonderful. And I went and I pitched it exactly that way to the CFO and he said, that’s great, Tricia, and that’s really, really nice.

But how much is it going to cost me? And so, I went back a few months later. So of course, the answer was no, because I didn’t have an answer. So, I went back and did my cost benefit analysis and looked at how we were going to reduce incidence and we were going to reduce claims related to soft tissue and all of these other issues that that could potentially have dollars, again, going out the back door and was successful the next time around talking about the bottom-line performance.

So, I think that’s a missing link. Often with safety. We know so much as safety professionals there’s this wealth of information that we have to be experts on. And yet if we can’t speak the language of money, it doesn’t resonate. I talk about that in the B words, too, for women as well. One of the challenges is our society and our culture. The reality is with many in many cases, women are raised to think that someone else should be responsible for them for their finances.

And I empower women to, whether you’re married or not or single or you want to start your own business, whatever it is, you need to learn to speak the language of money. So, I learned that in the safety world. And then I translated that message to the boards, too, because it’s the most important thing in the world when you know where you’re going and you know the financial aspect that you need to attain to get there. It’s funny, people say, I want to start my own business.

The next question is how much money do you need to do that? And they say, I don’t have enough money. And that’s a limiting belief. Well, if you don’t know what you need, then you’re never going to get there. And it’s the same thing with a safety budget. So, it just kind of its parallel in both of my universes.

So, it gets me to my last question. Your book is really about how do you break down barriers? How do you make a difference how you build a more authentic life? Can you share a little bit about women in leadership, some of the key topics that you cover in in your book?

Absolutely. So, I start with a foundation of self-defined success, so my success doesn’t look like anybody else’s, and I think that there’s a tendency for people to always look and say, well, this is what I want or there’s why would that person work when they should be home and all of those things? There’s a lot of that. So, I start with my success isn’t doesn’t look like anybody else’s. And that goes back to beliefs. And I think that one of the core chapters of beliefs is what is prohibition?

What is our society telling us we can’t do? And what is inhibition? What is that voice in your head telling you can’t do? And once you tap into those, if you recognize that voice and you can, you can change it. And you can also realize what and this is for men and women. What is it, a limiting belief or who told you? What if it’s wrong? What if it’s not true? What if there’s a doubt that is not true?

Then it opens the door. So, if women aren’t supposed to be engineers or women aren’t supposed to sit at the table, for example, I know we’ve made a lot of progress, but the same things are still resonating with this year with covid. I think we’re losing women. Women are leaving the workforce. We’re broke. But that goes back to organizational cultures. Where can we create environments where we do? The reality is we do need to now until the vaccine is out, take care of our children.

Somebody needs to educate them as well with the help of our teachers. If we’re not looking at that, you’re going to miss out on most of your workforce. So, I touch on bias. I touch on, of course, the biggest proverbial B word of all is bitch as I grew from in my career and became much more confident in my opinion and my knowledge base there, it suddenly becomes. So, wow, she’s a bitch, you know?

So how do I deal with that? So, I talk about that from a male and a female perspective is what’s going on in your head that why is it that if a confident, assertive woman is seen as a bitch, so there’s lots of sides to that as well. And then everything from bullies to bad ass, what does it take to become a badass and embrace your own personal view of the world? Because there’s something to be said for people who are confidently showing up every day and are comfortable in their own skin.

And that’s my goal, is to create a generation and do my part to help women in particular achieve that.

Yeah, so I think thank you for taking the time to write the book, to share your messages. I think there’s some very, very strong, important messages here for organizations, for individuals and really in terms of how we can comment on the limiting belief is a very, very powerful one. And it applies into so many spaces. You see it even in the safety space where people have this limiting belief of, I can only improve safety or quality productivity, whichever you’re trying to chase, as opposed to saying how do I improve all of them at the same time.

So, you see it in. Of life, people create these beliefs that I can’t break through this, but you can, you absolutely can. And it’s all it goes back to changing what someone decided is the truth and questioning it. And I think that’s safety. One hundred percent. If it’s all about compliance, it’s never going to be part of how they do business successfully. And therefore, you will always be separate and siloed. And so, the goal is to create an environment where safety is a part of how operations is successful.

So, it’s a predictor of success as well. Right. You’re going to be successful in life if you believe you can do you can be successful. If you don’t, then odds are you won’t.

Absolutely. It’s a much it’s a much better way to go through life being believing that in possibilities than shooting yourself in the foot before you even let yourself dream.

So, but there’s a lot of negativity out there. And so, this is my goal to kind of break some of those barriers and maybe by writing about it, it can potentially change someone’s mind and maybe somebody will adopt a different way of thinking. So that’s really what it’s all about on a person. And I really appreciate you, as I said before, kind of putting your thoughts in your books, giving some ideas, this incredibly important topic.

And thank you as well for the work you’re doing to improve safety in the construction space. So, Trisha, it’s been a pleasure to have you on the show. Wish you continued success both with your book as well as in your career. And thank you for joining us today.

Thank you so much. The books available on Amazon, the B word. Thirteen words women navigate for success or on my website, Tricia Kagerer Dotcom.

Excellent. Well, thank you very much for joining and then encourage you to pick up a copy of the book.

Thank you so much. It was great to be with you today.

Thank you for listening to The Safety Guru on C-Suite radio. Leave a legacy, distinguish yourself from the pack, grow your success, capture the hearts and minds of your teams, Fuel your future. Come back in two weeks for the next episode or listen to our sister show with the Ops guru, Eric Michrowski.

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Tricia Kagerer, Author & EVP of Risk Management at Jordan Foster Construction

Tricia is the Executive Vice President of Risk Management for Jordan Foster Construction a large construction organization that performs civil, multifamily and general contracting across Texas. Tricia leads the risk management, safety and leadership teams.

Tricia is a construction industry expert and speaker on various leadership, risk management and safety topics, including crisis management, emergency response best practices, education across cultures, and servant leadership and diversity.

She holds a master’s degree in dispute resolution from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, and her bachelor of science in business administration and bachelor of arts in communication—public relations from Regis University in Denver, Colorado.

Tricia is the author of the book The B Words: 13 Words Every Woman Must Navigate on the Journey to Self-Defined Success” where she highlights challenges and breakthrough strategies for women entering non-traditional roles in the workplace.

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